The psychologist’s work can be stressful, overwhelming, and it’snot always as successful as it would. Being in contact with people who often have trouble managing their emotions or experiencing serious conflicts, this professional needs special preparation and not only in regard to the techniques of diagnosis and treatmentbut also about managing emotions, frustrations and impulses.
For this reason the charcteristics of a psychologist are emphasized and usually are also performedattitude tests before entering the career, several trials to evaluate the potential that the applicant has in terms of human relations and self-control.
What are the most important characteristics of a psychologist?
1. Emotional self-control. Probably this is the most important quality, at least from the standpointof mental balance of the professionalas this feature allows him to regulate his emotions assertively and independently by what happens with the patient. Of course, emotional self-control doesn’t mean thatsome events do not have an impacton the psychologist because, after all, he’s a person with feelings and a past, but it allows him to regulate his feelings when facing the person, for responding not with a burst into mournor getting angry. Emotional self-control also serves to generate confidence in the patient and the therapist is perceived as a stable person to lean on.
2. Empathy. The psychologist must not only feel sympathy for the person in front of him, but should go a step further putting himself in the place of the patient to feel what he feels and think what he thinks.Only in this way he can really help the other person, as this attitude permits him to understand the magnitude of the problem that the patient is experiencing. In fact, several laboratory studies have been able to appreciate that the brains of people who are very empathetic react the same way as those who are experiencing the problem in first hand. It’s like when reading a book you get in the skin of the character and feelthe same frustration, pain or sorrow. If the psychologist is unable to empathize, is likely to minimize the problem or the reason of the patient and will end up applying inappropriate therapeutic techniques.
3. Open mind. People trust the psychologist so that often they tellhim facts that go against the system of beliefs and values of the professional. In such cases, the psychologist must have sufficient mental openness to understand why aperson behaves in a certain way beingtolerant enough to accept such behavior. When the psychologist fails to acceptthe person in front of him, he will send extra-verbal signs of rejection and, eventually, these will be detected by the patient, who will not feel comfortable and will probably abandon the therapy.
4. Introspection. This is one of the less considered characteristics of a psychologist but also one of the most important. Through the process of introspection the psychologist doesn’t only rebalance his emotional states to understand his impulsesand desires, but alsogets even closer to the world of the psyche. Introspection, being alone with oneself, is the cornerstone of personal growth but also a key to discover how the mind works.
5. Patience. Psychotherapyis often a long process where reversals occur. On the contrary to what many may think, the setbacks of the patients alsoaffect the psychologist by the momentthat this part of the process also leads him to questionthe method or even his ability to cope with the case. For this reason and because it’s not always easy to deal with some behaviors that can affect anyone, patience is an essentialquality that every psychologist must have.
6. Integrity. The psychologist must inspire confidence so that people feel comfortabletelling him problems that probably have not dared to reveal to anyone. This sense of trust can be created starting with small details, such as the body movements of the therapist to the decor of the room, but the basis resides in the value system of the psychologist. When a person feels that the professional is confident, that knows very well himself, has clear goals and is consistent with what he thinks, that person will rely and open itself to that psychologist.
7. Communication skills. Word is the primary means of psychological work, but communication skills are not restricted tothis. The psychologist must be, above all, a good listener, must remain attentive to the body language of the patient to be able to decode it and transmit faith and calm through his gestures.
Norcross, J. C. (2011) Psychotherapy relationships that work. Nueva York: Oxford University Press.
Roe, R. (2003) What makes a psychologist competent? Roles of the Psychologist; 86.